Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

How did you spend this last glorious day of 2011?  The weather here was crazy warm, but that's just how Texas is - unpredictable.  We took advantage of it.

I got to meet LuAnn and Jim, who became shareholders after a quick farm tour.  Actually, LuAnn had been here before, accompanying her pals who took the tri-loom class a few months ago.

We also got to visit with Rachael and Phil, who wanted to take a Babe wheel for a spin.  So good to meet them!  Then we got down to work...

Friend and helper, Angela, came over to dabble in a veritable buffet of farm chores:

Dog grooming and massage... (you can see how the dogs cooperated without complaint)

Sheep feeding... (notice our silly way of keeping the t-posts from poking through our tarp? Yes, those are rubber garden shoes.)

...and alpaca fiber skirting.  The fiber shares continue to march down the processing path.

Angela was such great company and a big help getting things done today.  The difference in productivity between one person and two people is much more than double.  The synergy is amazing.  I love the training and enabling aspects of our work together, too.  As more of us gals get our hands deep into the fiber prep work and the animal care work, the world takes on a softer edge, cushioned by love and sisterhood and wooly goodness.

We have some very exciting stuff coming up in 2012.  I can't wait to spread it all out for you...

Happy, healthy, safe New Year!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Night on the Town

Suzy, Moi, Susy, Marybelle, and Mary Tutu at Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth
A couple of times a year I get the opportunity to sit down with my friend Susie Gibbs and talk shop.  As you know, Susie invented the Fiber CSA and generously shared her experience and expertise with me just about three years ago.  We've supported each other directly and indirectly ever since.  She's a blast to hang out with.  Through Susie, I've met a bunch of really awesome friends who have also become part of our farm family. 

Last night I got to have a wonderful Mexican dinner with Susie, who's home for Christmas, and some of our pals: Suzy from Oklahoma, Marybelle from Valley Ranch, and our own Grandma Tutu - Mary.  I always come away so inspired to keep nurturing the farm dream, and full of new ideas.  Even though our two farms' goals and visions differ quite a bit, Susie and I share a shepherd's heart, a love of our unique communities, and a passion to share our resources.  We spur each other on to deeper creativity, encourage each other through challenges, and just generally have a good time.

Here's a bit of great news - Susie will be back in the area, promoting her Juniper Moon Farm yarns at the Woolie Ewe in Plano on January 25.  I'll post the time and agenda later, as it's available.  I'm sure the store will be sending out information on this, too, so watch your e-mail.  We may even get her out to the farm to visit her puppies while she's in the neighborhood.

If you're by the Ewe, check out the Juniper Moon Farm yarns - they're luscious.  And we got a bit of advance information about the new yarns she'll be adding to the line for the fall.  Her new yarn, Herriot, will be in my shopping cart for sure.  Can't tell you any more than that right now...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As the Year Winds Down

We're tuning up for Auld Lang Syne here at the farm, but that just means we're flipping the calendar page.  As usual, there's lots of comings and goings...

I told you we got a goat - isn't he magnificent?  Not exactly sure what we're going to do with him yet, but he's just bursting with potential.  And he looks great in all our finished knitted things.  He's a big boy, so you can't miss him when you come to the LRB.

The Golding Spindle Project.  Tom Golding is going to make Jacob's Reward Farm spindles as soon as we have an order for 20 of them.  They will be either walnut or cherry, and have our logo laser engraved on the top of the whorl.  The picture is the gorgeous Golding spindle I got for Christmas from my dear friend Karen.  Aren't those Celtic sheep wonderful?  And it spins like a dream - the Lamborghini of drop spindles.  Can not wait to have one with the JRFF logo!  Let me know if you'd like to be on the list of the first 20--they'll run $87 each (an awesome price).  I'll gather the capital and we'll give Mr. Golding the go-ahead to start the project.  We're about half way there, last time I checked.

Mr. Jonah boarded the trailer for the trip down to Goldthwaite yesterday, and made the journey just fine.  Barbara called today to tell me he made it through the night in his new pasture with his new friends - several alpacas and some llamas.  They'll make friends in time.

We'll miss him and his funny brown pants, but we'll also be very anxious to get our new gray boy here from Levelland.  We've gotten some wonderful suggestions for names, and I think one name in particular has moved ahead in the polls.  More information coming later on that one.

I hope you had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a good New Year's celebration.  I love this season with all the holidays breaking up the routine of the daily grind.  Must be a throwback to our school days when this holiday break provided some blessed relief from the pressures of life.  Even though the animal chores and farm work continue no matter what, there's still a sense that everyone's on vacation, just a bit.  Let's all relax and have some fun while we can...

Can I top off your nog?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Silver Lining

I know I said I wasn't going to blog again until after Christmas, but I just had to show you the very special addition to the farm who will be coming, hopefully soon.

Monaco Pine's Silver Lining

Meet our new alpaca man, registered under the name "Silver Lining."  He has a dense rose-gray fleece that you could just about eat with a spoon.

A better look at his ribbon-winning fleece.
I "met" this boy when I judged the STAR (State of Texas Alpaca Ranchers) spin-off competition a year ago last October.  I pulled his fleece sample out of the bag to evaluate and spin it, and nearly fainted dead away.  First of all, the color was magnificent, and secondly, the fineness and texture blew my socks off.  He easily won first place in his color and age group.  Super yum.

Our friend Lisa from Lubbock told me she knew this animal, and told me he came from her neighbor, Cindy Negen of Monaco Pines Alpacas.  I loved the fleece sample so much, Lisa helped me procure the whole thing once she returned home.  What a nice surprise!

Ms. Negen is a really savvy alpaca marketer, selling her own animals and also other breeders' wonderful alpacas.  I noticed a couple of months ago that Silver Lining was up for sale, with a price that reflected his quality -- way more than a fiber farmer like me could afford or justify.  I commented on her posts how lovely his fiber was, so that he might attract the attention of a worthy new owner.

To make a long story short, this amazing guy never found a buyer.  I'm chalking it up to the drought and high hay prices right now, because in other circumstances, this boy should have sold quickly and for a great price.  I told Cindy that if he didn't bring the kind of money she needed for him, I would make an embarrassingly low offer; one I could reasonably afford. 

Clearly this boy is supposed to be here - after a few weeks, Cindy e-mailed me that she had accepted my offer.  I cut her a check, and the gorgeous guy is ours.  We now are looking for an east-bound trailer to get him here from Lubbock.

Lisa spent some time with him and confirms that he is a really sweet boy with fiber that will make you swoon.  I still can hardly believe it.

The only downside to this story is that to make room for him, we have to reduce our herd here by one alpaca.  But even that isn't as bad as it sounds.  You see, at this same time, our friend Barbara, who used to own Gizmo and Jonah, has finally moved to her ranch property in Goldthwaite, TX.  She really wants her old boy Jonah back, to complete the herd she's building on her new place.  So next week, Jonah will head out to Barbara's, leaving a space for our new man to move in.  It seems meant to be. 

I've avoided calling him by his registered name much because you know he'll have to get a new call name to fit in with all his companions here at Jacob's Reward.  I have a couple of ideas, but I'm taking suggestions...

Twas the Lull Before Christmas

I've been a bit quiet on the blog this week, but it isn't because nothing's going on.  It's because, like a lot of households this week, so much is going on.

We have some incredibly cool things afoot, but all I can give you right this minute are hints.  Don't you just hate that?  Sorry...

A couple of things briefly:  We have a goat.  A large, inanimate goat.  I'll tell you more about him very soon.

And 2) we're getting our own Jacob's Reward Farm Golding Spindle.  See what I mean about cool things afoot?  More information on that little tidbit soon as well.

Gratuitous critter photos - my aunt and her friend came by yesterday for a Christmas visit, with the obligatory time in the pasture with the critters. 

Bea and Asher ponder each other.

Aunt Karelin and Bea are up to their waist in Polar Bear.

Bea grew up in Chile around farm animals, and knows how to win them over.

Of course, Vanni is not a hard sell.  I think he likes you, Bea.
If you're in the neighborhood tomorrow, I think some of the "Barnies" are coming by for a bit of stitching time in the LRB, so please know you're invited to join us.  10 AM till 2 or 3 PM on a quiet Christmas Eve day with friends.  Sound fun and Christmasy?

Peace Out friends... talk to you again on Monday.  Merry, merry Christmas.

 Luke:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Awakened to the Love of Yarn

Tonight Leslie and Peggy braved the monsoon that blew through the metroplex, to continue the knitting lessons they began last week.  Uh-huh - this is just Lesson #2, and look at all this progress...

They're knitting.  They're purling.  They insisted on switching to Continental style.  There might even be some ribbing going on.  Is it all the Christmas Spirit in the air?  Is it too much coffee?  There's one thing for sure - two new knitting souls have been born.  And they are Fiber Forces with Which to be Reckoned.

We may be doing lace socks before it's all over.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Party Hounds

Just a bit of free advice: party with the LRB Barnies if you want to have a really fun time, and lots of amazing treats, and brainstorm amazing ideas for life and craft.

Saturday we celebrated the puppies' first birthday with another spin/knit-in at the farm, beginning with the feeding rounds, excessive Vanni scritching, and then retiring to the barn for some refreshments and stitching.

 Coffee is much more festive with whipped cream from a can.

 Our caterer, Sarah, brought both Tira Misu cupcakes and Orange Coconut cupcakes.  We went totally gourmet -  none of this silly vanilla vs. chocolate stuff.  Sarah's in the eleventh grade, and has a very promising future ahead of her in the culinary arts...

 Sweet UK pal, Caroline, sent us a powerful Mint Cake to enjoy - mighty minty!!  From England!  Thank you, Caro!

Kate got to be with us for the first time, and had Smokey in Kitty Heaven right away... it did slow down Kate's crochet progress, but it must be done.

Denise and Dina talked about a really unusual knitted scarf pattern...

Brand new knitter, Leslie, came out to enjoy some knitting friendship and treats.  
(She's doing so great, by the way.  She'll soon add purling to her repertoire.)

Anna and Brian got to come for a short visit.  I'm still feeling bad that Smokey was less than hospitable to little Brian's sweet advances.  Kitties and little people sometimes don't mesh...

Show us your socks, Denise...

Rita updated us on all the wedding plans.  Things are really coming together!  What an amazing example of organization and preparation!

Hanane's daughter made her a gorgeous yarn bowl in her art class.  Really beautiful.

We got to see Brenda for the first time in a long time.  It was so good to hug her neck.

Kris got to drop by for a bit, too.  The Farmstead Museum has been working her to the bone... come rest with us, Kris!

In any case, the dogs were loved and celebrated, and we enjoyed some time together, holding each other up in whatever place in life we find ourselves challenged and engaged.

There are few better ways to spend a gorgeous winter day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Give Me Shelter

The sheep hut is finished!

I tell ya, there's not much you can't do around here as long as you have cattle panels, t-posts, baling wire, zip ties and duct tape.  And a humongous tarp.  And great friends.

Elaine came over today to help with this project.  She's going to have her own farm and sheep some day and is anxious to learn all she can about shepherding.  Today she learned how to drive t-posts...

...and how to get otherwise standoffish sheep to eat out of your hand.

There she is - our new sheep shelter, ready to protect the girls from the winter weather.  And just as important, we're now able to till up the, uh, organic matter in the previous sheep hut to become our greenhouse for winter veggies.  I'm very anxious to sow some seeds and get some spinach and lettuce going.

Thank you, Elaine, for a really great afternoon of camaraderie, hard work, achievement, and well, fun.  The sheep thank you, and I thank you...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best of Times

The best part of life on this farm, is the friendship of the people who gather here to enjoy it together.  We love fiber and knitting and spinning and crochet and weaving and critters, and each other.  This past Saturday, some of our Shareholders got together to toast the season, eat some wonderful snacks, work on projects, and generally have a ball.  Fortunately, the weather was fantastic, because we spilled out of the LRB and into the yard!  It's one of my favorite days of the whole year...

Shepherding looks great on Leslie!

Laurie's working on her 476th Queen Anne's Lace scarf!

Dawn got a t-shirt she's been hankering for...

Dina brought us a platter that sums everything up quite nicely!

So good to see Tasha and Gail again!

Ms. Chris made it in spite of car challenges.  And I made out like a bandit: Golding spindle, hand-made scarf, and wee sheep pin!  Up to my ears in riches!

Old friends and new bond immediately in the LRB!

Sweet Dina and new friend Barbara enjoy spinning yarns - of all kinds!

Karen looks lovely in her new alpaca scarf!

Gorgeous weather drew a bunch of us out into the sunshine.

Jennifer shares an amazing lace veil for show and tell.

Anela, Gay, Mary and Elaine settle into happy contentment with their needles clicking.

And because community is what we're all about, we're going to do it again this coming Saturday - it's our regular Third Saturday get-together, with a special treat:  come enjoy goodies to celebrate the puppies' First Birthday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Satisfaction of a Job Well Done

One of the very first people to take me up on this newfangled Help Share thingy was my buddy Jill.  Now Jill is not yet a spinner, but that's only a matter of time.  She's been a fan of the farm and a helper to me for a long time, but we're just now codifying it.  When this city girl told me she was up for an outdoor adventure, I jumped on the chance to expose her to some gratifying farm labor.

True to her word, she showed up with her work shoes and her happy disposition firmly in place.  Remember, this is the lady who coined the phrase, "too much nature," when she encountered things like bugs and worms here at the farm. 

I had a very important job that has needed doing for a couple of weeks, and we really had to take advantage of the rainless skies to get it done.  One person alone (me) would struggle with this simple job, but two hands would make light work.  We found our stride and worked great together - what a team!

Jill and I assembled the raw ingredients I had purchased to turn our old sheep hut into a serviceable greenhouse for us to grow greens during the winter.

And in short order (and with only a little help from the sheep) we had it operational.  Now, all we need is the other structure for the sheep to get in out of the weather and we can turn this enclosure over to the seeds and seedlings.  But that's a bit larger project, for another day.  Step by step, we'll get there.

Fine job, Farmer Jill!  Don't let anybody tell you that you aren't a country girl at heart!

Nothing like a little dirt on your knuckles and some sheep poop under your nails to get that satisfying sense of a job well done.